Front-end loading

Front-end loading is one of those principles that is easy to explain but hard to practice.

The name explains it: front-end loading is doing work up front to achieve a goal later. An example would be taking the time to plan a project before starting the steps in the project itself.

The reason it is a principle is that it applies to so many things in life:

  • Take care of your body when you are a young adult in order to be healthy when you are an older adult.
  • Save money when you are in your working days to have money for retirement.
  • Spend time with your children when they are young in order to have better relationships with them later in life.
  • Help your children learn self-discipline when they are little so THEY have a successful life later. (Helping others do their own front-end loading is part of leadership … and parenting.)

Obviously, front-end loading is an important key to success in many areas.

Why, then, don’t more people practice it?

When I was leading a team in a corporation, one of the hardest things to get younger employees to do was sign up for the company’s 401k plan. It seemed unfathomable to me at the time, as I was shoveling all I could into my own 401k to make up for my own lack of front-end loading earlier in my life.

Upon reflection, it seems to me that doing front-end loading for a distant goal take two things: a vision, and hope.

Vision: If you don’t have a fairly detailed vision of what you want to have achieved in that distant future, it’s hard to do the work today. Doing a how-much-money-will-I-need retirement calculation when you are in your twenties is hard to make a priority. It’s so far into the future – and who knows what life will be like then?

In order to have the motivation to do the work, you need to work out a realistic vision of that future. One of my favorite questions when starting a project for a client was “what will success look like?” For something as distant as retirement, you need to answer that question – and answer it with broad strokes, not necessarily fine details. “I will have enough money to support myself and to travel comfortably” might be enough of a vision. Ultimately, the vision has to be detailed enough to serve as motivation.

Hope: You can have the greatest vision in the world, but if you don’t actually believe you can achieve it, it will be de-motivating. Knocking down your own vision with your own negative self-talk is a great way to be stuck before you start.

It takes a certain frame of mind to combine hope with realism. The framing of the vision helps with this. “I’m going to win the Pulitzer Prize” is not a good vision at all – primarily because you can’t control it. “I’m going to be a regular and improving writer” is much better.

Let’s be clear: having hope or belief that you can actually accomplish your goal if you do the front-end loading is not the same as a guarantee of success. We all know that things happen that are outside of our control.

But without a vision, a belief, and the necessary front-end loading, you are almost guaranteed NOT to succeed.


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Are You Leading or Managing? Are You Sure?

(This is the second in a series of posts on “leading vs managing.” If you want to keep up, signing up for the newsletter is the best way. /shamelessplug)

leading-vs-managing-ab-1-728In the introduction to this series, I laid out the distinction between leading and managing. Essentially, I said that those are shorthand for “managing the work” and “leading the people.” These are the two essential jobs of any kind of leader: deliver results, and build people.

Whenever I lay out this admittedly basic idea, I almost always get lots of head nods around the room. People understand it, and they agree with it. “Yep, we have to do both.” If I then ask them if they themselves do both parts of their job, most people again nod their heads. But if I press the point and ask them how they know, they become less certain.

There are actually three very simple tests you can use to see if you are balancing these two facets of being a leader. Here they are: Continue reading

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How to Fight for Change Without Being Mean

I’ve been thinking about this question a lot lately, as I do more and more writing on this page, as I try to do more and more advocacy, AND as we prepare to launch a progressive community site for the city. There are some truths that I operate from, that seem to be at odds with each other:

  • Silence is not an option.
  • Bad ideas, policies, and actions must be challenged.
  • Change only happens when either the leaders decree it (top-down) or when enough people want it (bottom-up).
  • Evil must be challenged. (And yes, there are “evil” acts and other things in the world.*)
  • People themselves are not evil.
  • Satire and snark are sometimes the best way to call out bad ideas, bad policies, and bad actions.
  • We are all part of the human race, and brothers and sisters because of that.
  • You don’t mistreat your brothers and sisters.
  • Hate is not an option.

So, on the one hand, we have to be active in the fight against the bad, willing to call out others and take unpopular stands, hoping to win enough people over to our side to effect change from the bottom-up. On the other hand, we must do it in such a way that we do not hate, we must not turn those we oppose into the Other, and we must remember that ultimately we are one family.

This is hard. To do this well and consistently is really, really hard.

But we must find a way.

So, here are some guidelines I’m adopting for myself, and possibly for this new site I’m helping launch: Continue reading

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Leader, Manager, Predator, Shepherd

(A Lection Reflection on Mark 6 and Psalm 23) (also part of the Leadership series)

Fire up the Google machine and put in “sheep without a shepherd,” “Jesus as shepherd,” “the Good Shepherd,” or “the Lord is my shepherd.” You’ll find a gazillion sermons, blog posts, and web pages talking about church members as sheep, Jesus as shepherd, why us poor humans need shepherding, and so on.

This post isn’t one of those.

Instead, let’s take a different approach. Let’s answer two questions:

  1. What are the differences between leader, manager, predator, and shepherd?
  2. What does being a “good shepherd” mean? And should we try to emulate that?

I’ve got two different blog threads going here, and I’m going to take this opportunity to weave them together. Let’s see if it works — join me below the jump. Continue reading

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Leading vs Managing — An Introduction

(This is the first in a series of posts on “leading vs managing.” If you want to keep up, signing up for the newsletter is the best way. /shamelessplug)

leading-vs-managing-ab-1-728There is a great site on the interwebz called Big Dog and Little Dog’s Performance Juxtaposition. It’s Don Clark’s site about leadership, learning, training, and performance improvement. There is a quiz on there about today’s topic, and the quiz includes two statements that you have to rate in importance:

Nothing is more important than accomplishing a goal or task.
Nothing is more important than building a great team.

Of course, everyone taking the quiz asks how both of these can be true, and Don answers from his Army days — Continue reading

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I’m Back

After many months away from all my sites, after many months of combining work with campaigning, after many months of doing no writing except for campaign blurbs and publicity pieces, I am very pleased and excited to share this important news:

I’m back.

After the election was over, I took some time away by doing one of my “custom Bruce Maples trips” (point the car in some direction, in this case Northeast, and take off). After that trip was over, I had to do some campaign clean-up tasks, and get some music things ready at church, and catch up some things around the house. But now, almost exactly a month after the election, I am ready and eager to begin writing again.

I am cross-posting this to all four sites, so if you follow me in more than one venue you will see it multiple times. After this, though, I should be back to keeping different content on each site.

Thanks for hanging in there while I was away. Thanks for coming back and reading this. And thanks for your encouragements, your friendships, and your willingness to see what I have to say.

Let’s get to writing.

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Gout, Food Allergies, Nitrates, and Cherries

As some of you know, I have suffered from occasional attacks of gout for years. They range from a day or two of a little pain and swelling, to full-blown, can’t-walk, feel-like-a-migraine-in-my-foot attacks that last a week or longer.

My first attack came out of the blue many years ago, and when I tried to figure out what had caused it, the only unusual thing I could think of was that I had eaten an entire box of Hot-N-Spicy Cheezits. That wasn’t too unusual — I LOVE Cheezits, and I love the HNS kind especially. This time, though, I had really chowed down on them … and a day or so later, I was dying from the pain.

I told my doctor about the Cheezits, and he looked at me like I was nuts. So, I figured I WAS nuts, and gave up on the Cheezits theory. Till it happened again.

I started paying attention to what seemed to trigger the attacks, and spicy food looked to be the culprit. But it was weird — some spicy foods, like jalapenos, didn’t cause a problem, while others triggered an attack like clockwork. (And I mean literally like clockwork — pretty much exactly 36 hours after consumption.)

Chirachi sauce was a major trigger. Hot-N-Spicy Cheezits, but not regular Cheezits. The spicy chicken sandwich from this chain was okay, but from that chain it caused an attack. And so on.

Then, I had a major problem come up after a basketball game — but this time it was in my KNEE, not my foot. Specifically, it felt like it was in the muscles or tendons ABOVE my knee, not in the joint. The only thing I could think of that could have caused it was a foot-long hot dog I ate at the game. I had had a horrible migraine later that night, then the knee problem started a few days later.

I went to my doctor, who said she thought I had water on my knee, and sent me to an orthopaedist. He had his assistant try to drain my knee, but she couldn’t find any fluid. She called him in, and he couldn’t either. Finally he stood up and said, “I was wrong — there’s no fluid in your knee joint.” I had told them it wasn’t the knee that hurt, but the tissue above, but they hadn’t listened. After a week or so, the pain went away on its own.

After continually comparing ingredients, doing research, and noting which things caused attacks, I have finally decided that I have three food allergies that caused both my gout attacks and my leg pain:

  • Cayenne pepper
  • Paprika
  • Nitrates

The HNS Cheezits use paprika for color, and probably cayenne pepper as well. The chirachi surely uses cayenne. And that hot dog at the game? Loaded with nitrates, which caused both the migraine and the knee tissue pain.

I have avoided all of the above for about six months, and not had any more attacks. In addition, I’ve exercised more and drunk more water, which of course have helped as well.

Just to try out my theory, I have occasionally tried small amounts of foods that I knew contained one of the above ingredients. Sure enough, about 36 hours later I have a small amount of swelling in my foot, usually in my big toe joint.

Two More Notes

I read today that paprika sometimes uses — get this — nitrates in order to keep it fresh. The writer notes that if you have a reaction to paprika, but not to peppers, then it might be the preservatives that are really the problem.

And, if you suffer from gout and have read about the supposed benefits of eating cherries — believe it. That is one internet medical treatment that seems to actually work. During my last attack, I started eating dried cherries, and it seemed to lessen the swelling and speed up the relief. I continue to eat them regularly as part of the fruit in my diet.

Posted in Life in General | 1 Comment

Joe Biden — From the Heart

Joe Biden speaking at the Tragedy Assistance Program for Survivors — and we see into his heart.

I’m so glad he is our vice-president.

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Helmets, Seat Belts, and Common Sense

OK, short post here, but a good reminder nevertheless.

From a Denise Harper-Angel email:

More than half of the 356 fatalities were cases where those killed were not wearing their seat belts. Twenty four percent of the fatalities involved distracted driving. And 16% of the fatalities involved an impaired (drugs or alcohol) driver. Finally, more than half of those who were killed in motorcycle crashes were not wearing helmets. Current Kentucky law does not require motorcycle riders to wear helmets.

This isn’t new science, folks. Seatbelts save lives — it’s that simple. If you wear your seatbelt all the time, there’s never a question about it. You’re always safer than if you go without.

And if you ride a bike? Guess what — pavement is harder than your head. Always. So wear your helmet — hot or no.

Let’s face it — you can’t prepare for every bad thing that can happen in your life. But you sure as hell can keep from making them worse by your own stupidity. Wear your seatbelt, wear your helmet, show common sense.

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Back on Schedule

So, here I was, exercising regularly, losing weight, getting that blood pressure under control. And writing regularly, both in morning pages and on here.

And then the holidays hit, and an intense period of music-making at church*, and Christmas, and time off. Then the laptop died right before Christmas, so I had to get a new one, and get it set up. And then the first-of-the-year panic at work, and 2011 planning, and lots of new initiatives, and annual reviews, and …

Well, you get the idea. December was three weeks of panic, followed by a week of vacation and setting up a new laptop. January has been sorta back to panic.

Today, finally, I’m getting back on schedule. Went to the gym again, got back on the food plan, and getting back into my GTD system. So, look for some new stuff coming soon.

And if, after all this time away, you’re still checking in to see if I’ve posted: bless you, dear reader, for your loyalty. I’ll try to reward it with something worth reading.

*Who in the world decided to put the banquet on the same weekend as the Lessons and Carols, since orchestra and choir were doing both? Oh yeah — me.

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